H1N1 vaccines on the way to Juneau clinics

7.4 percent of Glacier Valley Elementary School students out with flu-like symptoms

Posted: Sunday, October 18, 2009

Vaccines for H1N1, also known as swine flu, are beginning to trickle into Juneau.

Greg Wilkinson, spokesman for the state Department of Health and Social Services, said the state sent nasal spray vaccines to Juneau pediatricians, family clinics and hospitals last week in small batches. More nasal spray and injectable vaccines will be arriving at the Juneau Public Health Center and bigger area pharmacies at the end of this week.

Wilkinson stressed that right now, only "priority groups" - pregnant women, people who live with an infant younger than 6 months, anyone 6 months to 24 years old, people age 25 to 64 with pre-existing health conditions that would make them more susceptible to the flu, and health care workers - should be getting vaccines.

In the Juneau School District, officials are closely watching Glacier Valley Elementary School, which had 26 students out of a total 351 - 7.4 percent - out with flu-like symptoms the week before last, said Juneau School District spokeswoman Kristin Bartlett. Three teachers were out with flu-like symptoms, as well. Statistics are reported to the district on Friday and compiled Monday, Bartlett said.

In hopes of keeping numbers down, the district, along with the Juneau Public Health Center, has planned free student vaccination clinics for area schools, with the first clinics scheduled for the preschool programs on Wednesday and Thursday followed by the elementary schools in later weeks.

Glacier Valley is tentatively last, but may be moved up if problems continue there, said Juneau School District spokeswoman Kristin Bartlett. Clinics also could change based on vaccination availability.

Wilkinson said based on projected allocations, the district's schedule is probably in line with supply.

Periodic updates on clinic dates will be posted at www.juneauschools.org. Middle and high school vaccinations will follow elementary school vaccinations. Children ages 2 to 10 will need two doses at least one month apart; they will receive a second dose after all school-age children are vaccinated at least once.

The state highly recommends the vaccines, but they are not a requirement. Students must either have a signed permission slip or have a parent present to receive a vaccine.

Bartlett said many parents have shown interest in vaccinations, but also are happy to know they have a choice.

Statewide, more than 10 percent of reporting doctors' patients told their doctors they had flu-like symptoms for the week ending Oct. 10, according to the Alaska Influenza Surveillance Report.

That's more than double the national average of 5.1 percent for the prior week, though it's not the highest state average, said Wilkinson.

• Contact reporter Mary Catharine Martin at 523-2276 or maryc.martin@juneauempire.com.

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